KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — A bomb exploded on Friday near the office of a main Pakistan political party that had received threats from the Taliban, killing nine people in the latest attack in the run-up to next month’s parliamentary election.
As the election approaches, militant groups have increasingly been attacking liberal, secular parties such as the one targeted Friday in the port city of Karachi. The onslaught has forced many of the parties to change their campaign strategy and has raised questions about whether the vote can be considered valid if some mainstream parties can’t properly take part.
Police officer Zafar Bukhari said the bomb was planted on a motorbike near the Awami National Party office. Nine people, including four children, were killed and 24 other people were wounded, he said.
Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan claimed responsibility for the attack in a telephone call to The Associated Press from an undisclosed location.
The Taliban previously announced a strategy to target three political parties. In addition to the ANP, the Taliban issued threats against the Muttahida Quami Movement and the Pakistan Peoples Party. All three are perceived as being liberal parties that have earned the Taliban’s ire by advocating against the militants and extremism.
On Thursday, a bomb exploded outside a MQM election office in Karachi, killing five people.
Earlier, the Taliban killed at least two political party representatives and attacked a number of political events, particularly targeting the ANP in the northwest.
One of the most serious attacks occurred on April 21, when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a meeting of the ANP in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing 16 people. The Taliban said the target of the attack was Haroon Ahmad Bilour, whose father, a senior party leader, was killed in a suicide bombing in Peshawar in December. He escaped unscathed, but his uncle, Ghulam Ahmad Bilour, suffered minor injuries.
In the capital, Islamabad, Pakistani officials said they planned to seal the border with Afghanistan and restrict the movement of Afghan refugees on election day.
Officials at the Interior Ministry and the election commission said Friday that the measure is aimed at preventing terrorist attacks during the vote. However, officials did not say how they would restrict the movement of hundreds of thousands of people spread out across the country or block crossings along the porous border. Pakistan announced similar measures in the past but failed to take action.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.